Meet the man behind the game
AFL supremo, Andrew Demetriou, talks to Neos Kosmos about almost everything... except football
Nobody knows the world of Australian Rules Football like Andrew Demetriou. A former player at the highest level, and the galvanising power behind the decisions that propel the indigenous game ever forward: he is immersed in the game like no other. So it was with some embarrassment that I confessed my personal knowledge about the AFL was somewhat limited. Evident of the man he is, our interview revealed the complexity and humanity evident in those who stand out in their fields.
I have always been fascinated by this man.
I've seen him - as you have as well - a million times on television and the impression I have always had was that this boss is a real toughie. The thunderous outbursts, the daring look in his eyes, the decisive nature of his presence suggested a man of steel. Is Andrew Demetriou a fearless human being though? Is he really a man of steel?
Well, you can make up your mind after reading this interview. But prior to that, just a small piece of information. Andrew Demetriou's all time favourite book is The Little Prince; a children's book written by the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. You might have read it, and you might also hold fond memories. If not just keep in mind that this book is a hymn for life, love and friendship.
EP: What did Andrew Demetriou aspire to be when he was a child?
Andrew Demetriou: Nothing in particular really, and there was no pressure from our parents to be something. Of course they always wanted us to be educated, to have all those opportunities in life that they did not have. As young people we took it for granted that we will finish school - we will go to university. We felt that's what we had to do. It was a way for us to say thank you to our parents for giving us the opportunities. To be honest, I never knew at that early age what I wanted to do. I ended up studying Arts, I did some teaching and even then I didn't think I was there for the long term, and that was in my early twenties. And then I got into a private business, in the dental business.
EP: Had you ever thought of becoming just a footballer, or getting involved professionally with football?
AD: No, in fact when I played football - because we were semi-professionals then - we could study and all I thought about, was to make sure to use my football income to supplement what I wanted to do later in life. For example, to help me buy a house, which I did and that in return helped me to do other things. So I always thought a football career is short I never expected to work in football, I didn't have aspirations to work in football. I was more than happy to go and work in private enterprise. And I actually like the idea of being self-employed, but I never thought I would end up working in football. I never planned for it and I would have never thought about it.
EP: What are the values that define the way you lead your life both personally and professionally?
AD: Easy question for me! They are the values that we inherited from our parents. The first and foremost is the value of respect. We were brought up learning to respect all people, from all backgrounds. My parents were genuine believers that you must respect all people, regardless of where they come from, what they look like or what religion they are. You don't have to like all people but you should respect them. That has held me in very good stead all of my life. And I believe that if respect becomes your core value in life, all the other values follow. Some very important values for me have always been integrity, truthfulness, and honesty. These are things that for me are not negotiable. You see I am pretty boring when it comes to that, I never deviate from these values. If I get accused of being too honest, fine. If I get accused of being too respectful, great. All these accusations stand because it is true.
EP: Professionally you are regarded as a very successful individual. I would like to know how Andrew defines success in his personal life?
AD: For me in my personal life success revolves around my family. That's my first priority, and my second and my third priority. So while my father is still around I do my best to make sure that he is treated with respect. He's earned the right to retire, the right to be looked after and we do our best as a family to do that. I've got three older brothers and we maintain a very close relationship. We've all got children and we are all very close. And now in my own immediate family, my number one priority, are my four children and my wife. Watching them grow up, teaching them to grow to be good people, respect other people. It is a fascinating journey because I get a lot of reward seeing the results. It is very rewarding. To me that's success. The ability to influence your family to make them better people, who can make great contributions to the society.
EP: So let's forward the clock some 40 years in the future. What do you think would make you happy as an old man?
AD: I would feel like the happiest and the most successful human being if I can be around my family and I can see them achieving their dreams. I do not care about the material aspects in life. As long as I have a healthy family and they have become decent citizens, with good values. That's very important for me.
EP: Talking about health. I know you lost your first wife from cancer some years ago. How did a man of steel, as people tend to believe you are, deal with such loss?
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